What HR is to Me

I really wasn’t sure what to share for my first post. I wanted to dazzle and delight and display my point of view with charm, wit and a voice all my own. Yet with so
many great HR bloggers out there, I felt a little intimidated. But I had to put that
aside. My voice is what it is, my point of view is based on my reality and my
only competition is myself. So I decided to introduce my point of view into the
mix by … introducing my point of view into the mix! Genius, right?? So here it
is!

What HR is to Me – by Buzz A Rooney

Years ago, I took a class on human capital management. What most stuck with me was a comment my professor made during one of our discussions. I don’t recall the exact quote but he basically said people who get into the HR profession in order to “help employees” are idiots who will either burn out and leave the field, or spend
their careers as frustrated paper-pushers, always on the outside looking in on
the real action.

At the time, I thought he was the one who was burnt out and bitter. Today, I wish I could find him, thank him, shake his hand and kiss his face—in a completely unromantic, non-harassing way, of course.

On my planet, the function of Human Resources is to balance the rights of the employee with the needs of the employer in order to ensure the protection and productivity of the employer. And Human Resources professionals have to embrace and work within—or at times work around—this reality if we want to be effective
and successful in the organizations we work in. We are there to guide, counsel, coach and direct the other staff toward creating, enforcing and following policies and procedures that are lawful and ethical. Because if we don’t do it, no one will. And left to their own devices, management will take advantage of their employees.

Not to say employers don’t care about the people who work for them. Of course they do. Just not more than the widget they are producing or the service they are providing and definitely not more than their bottom line. If the employer has to choose between itself and its employee, it is going to choose itself. That is onlynatural.

If employers really, truly cared about employees, there would be no need for any of the regulatory agencies that govern how employees must be treated. No Worker’s Comp Commissions, no FLSA, no FMLA, no DOL, no CBAs, no EEOC. None of any of that. Instead, these places are bursting at the seams with complaints from people who perceive they have been wronged in some way by their employer – and in a lot of cases, the employer is found at fault. Because they are. Because they don’t really
care. Because it is more profitable not to.

So in comes HR, the great equalizer! Sound the trumpets! The hero is here to save the day!! The problem is the hero doesn’t really care either anymore. HR is spread so thin and so overwhelmed with various projects and initiatives that we are just doing what we can to stay afloat. Instead of being innovative and strategic, we spend our time trying to minimize risk, liability and possible damages through rote
and routine hiring, training, development and regulations. Getting to do what’s
“right” or “fun” or even what feels “good” becomes a rarity and a bonus! In fact, I recall recently saying to another staff member “we’re exposed and there’s nothing we can do to get away from that so we might as well just try do what we think is
right” – and I didn’t even cringe.

I’m cringing now though … but only a little.

Because this is the only HR world I’ve ever known. Where HR is akin to the ER – it’s the place employees go when there’s an urgent matter because they cannot solve the problem alone and they cannot wait for their usual practitioner to handle it. I
only know a world where HR is really no one’s friend, but definitely everyone’s
nemesis and necessary evil. I only know a world where HR is like a consultant,
like a visitor in its own home spouting zealous ideals instead of being a partner.

This isn’t how I think it should be, for the record. But it’s the reality I’ve lived in for over a decade now. Rather than complain about it or rebel against it, I choose to bloom where I am planted and impact change where I can. Not to mention, this way works. No, it doesn’t work for everyone – but it works for a lot of organizations out there because I know I am not alone in my observations. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of HR utopia where HR creates, implements and guides the strategy. It’s like seeing a rainbow. It’s beautiful, but it never lasts long.

Most days, I am ok with my reality. The daily happenings at my job never cease to amaze me, challenge me and give me fantastic fodder that I fully intend to share all over this blog!

And there is a big part of me that really truly and deeply believes in what I do and why I do it. Discrimination, insubordination, chronic absenteeism and poor performance are real—and employers have every right to take action to combat against these things in their company. When I act on these issues, I am ensuring justice is served and I feel good about that! In fact, I am quite proud about that, even though the justice serves a dual purpose. Killing two birds with one stone is still a good thing, right?

Yet I still feel the dissonance that comes from charging people who make little more than minimum wage almost $150 per check in benefits premiums, or terminating a
single mom who fails a drug test after taking a friend’s pain meds, or requesting a doctor’s notes from an ailing man knowing we probably cannot accommodate him before I even see the restrictions. Those moments suck and I don’t feel especially proud or good about that. Overall, the good days outweigh the bad days and I won’t complain … much. Especially now that I have a creative outlet to connect with other people to talk about how to get from real to ideal—and all the places in between. Or vice-versa, depending on the topic.

Ultimately, I am satisfied. Feeling compassion toward the people negatively impacted by the the unpleasant parts of the job means there is still a human in my resources and I’m not a total corporate sell-out. Only a little one. If there is such a thing.

And now I need to find my old professor’s email address so I can send him a proper “thank you” note.

Comments Closed

14 Comments

  1. Buzz-
    I have to say, this post hits the nail on the head. HR always finds itself caught in the balance between advocate and enforcer, but at the end of the day, your role is one that is included in the budget of the corporation, so your first and primary responsibility HAS to be to protect the best interests of the company.

    I think if more employees truly understood this, it would help them to set more realistic expectations for when they need to interact with HR. It’s not HR’s role to get them what they want, but many mistakenly feel that should be the focus.

    I look forward to more great content from you!

    Jamie

    • Buzz Rooney

      May 6, 2011 at 2:51 AM

      Love this ~> “if more employees truly understood this, it would help them to set more realistic expectations for when they need to interact with HR. It’s not HR’s role to get them what they want” You are so right!

      I tell employees all the time “it is not my place to replace my judgement or yours for your manager’s. It is my place to review the manager’s decision to make sure there was no violation of our policies or the law.” HR is not Santa Claus! (I think I just got an idea for a holiday post! Ha!)

  2. Yvonne Davis

    May 1, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    As a long-term HR Administrator, I find your comments , and very human feelings , refreshing. I look forward to your insights.

  3. Buzz,
    I think your post is both insightful and expressive of the wisdom you have in this field. Looking forward to your next post.
    Mel

  4. Very insightful. Knowing nothing of HR other than they supposed get me what I need if thats even an correct point of view to take I look forward to reading more of your blog entries.

  5. Hey Buzz,

    I’m currently a student studying Human Resources Management and I researched high and low trying to find out what HR will be like when I graduate. This post is one of the first real story I’ve seen about how HR functions and I cannot thank you enough for this. Judging by what I have read, I feel the same as you in regards to HR and I am hoping not to change the world, but to make the area I work in a little better. I want to be able enter a company and leave my mark on it (preferably a good mark). I look forward to reading more blog posts.

    Keep up the great writing.

    • Buzz Rooney

      May 6, 2011 at 2:57 AM

      Thanks, Tom! I promise you that I will do my best to continue to bring honest perspective on the HR functions in my writing.

      Every day is an adventure. I wouldn’t trade anything for my journey. Just take it one small victory at a time!

  6. Amen, Buzz! And congrats on your first post. I’m looking forward to seeing your content grow as we get to know you.

    Keep it up!

    Jessica

    http://www.blogging4jobs.com

  7. Yeah! Buzz. Keep on blogging! Enjoyed your post. You will make an impact when expressing your experiences on social media!

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